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The History of Tea – Dates and Facts
2.700 years B.C., the tea shrub was already mentioned in Chinese literature. 500 A.D., Buddhist monks brought tea to Japan. 621 A.D., Buddhism became the national religion of Japan and green tea developed being the Japanese national drink. Around 1600, tea first came to Europe thanks to the famous Dutch East-Indian Compagnie. Afterwards, the English followed, founding an East-Indian Compagnie and took over the tea monopoly for many years to come. 1773 Boston Tea Party. American citizens protested against the high tea taxes imposed by the English colonial rulers. The tea cargo of three English tea clippers, which were anchored in the harbour, was thrown overboard. The American War of Independence commenced and this “tea war” led to the USA to become the world power it still is today.
In 1869, the Suez Canal was opened for ships, which brought an end to the competition of the high tariffs imposed on English tea clippers upon their journey home from China to London.
The Tea Shrub
Tea, a tree-like plant, is maintained shrub-like for the tea cultivation by regular pruning. Tea belongs to the species of the camellia. The evergreen shrub has got dark, ridged, leather-like leaves. The flower is white or rose-coloured; the fruit is small with a hard shell, similar to a hazelnut. Nowadays, its reproduction is rarely done through pollination but rather vegetative, where cuttings are grown on the high-yielding parent shrub.
The two primal tea plants are:
Thea Sinsensis (or Chinese Tea) It remains shrub-like even without regular cutting and grows to a height of only 3 – 4 m. This shrub flourishes best in moderate climatic zones and can even withstand frost.
Thea Assamica (or Assam Tea) It becomes a grand tree of a height of 15 – 20 m if not cut back regularly. This tea shrub requires a lot of warmth and is a purely tropical plant.
These two primal tea plants have been crossbred again and again in order to develop finer, more aromatic and, especially, more robust breeds. The so-called Assam-hybrid has proven particularly suitable. It is important to acknowledge that the differences in taste and quality not only depend on the plant itself, but also on the cultivation region, its climatic conditions and the diligent plucking as well as processing of the tea leaves.
The Tea Harvest
In the tea cultivation countries, generally only the upper leaf bud and the next two leaves, the youngest ones of a sprout (“two leaves and a bud”) are plucked. Further, i.e. older leaves than these generally have a negative influence on the quality of the finished tea.
In the higher up, cooler regions, the tea naturally grows slower. This enables the particularly fine, aromatic character to unfold. The harvesting time also has a significant influence on the quality of the tea. The plucking requires a large amount of care as well as skill and is often done by women. The average plucking capacity amounts to approximately 16 – 24 kg of green leaves per day. This amount yields 4 – 6 kg of finished tea. Two to three times a day, the green leaves are transported to the factory on the plantation. The green, fresh leaves are still entirely neutral in scent and first have to be treated in the tea factory, passing through various production steps, in order to create an aromatic tea.
As opposed to coffee, which is imported as green coffee and receives its final form in the country of consumption via sorting and roasting, tea is already processed on the plantations in the country of origin and then exported in its final form. The most important phases of the treatment with respect to orthodox tea production (which can be used for the production of any type of tea desired as opposed to the later explained CTC production) are: withering, rolling, fermenting, drying and sorting into leaf and broken grades, i.e. sizes. These different steps are explained below:
Orthodox Tea Production
When the fresh leaves reach the factory, they are weighed and the amount is registered. Next, the withering process is commenced where the humidity content of the leaves is reduced by about 30 % in order to make them soft and flexible for the subsequent rolling. The withering takes place in special withering troughs of a length of 25 – 30 m, which are stringed with a wire grid and ventilated with large fans. The leaves are spread out on the grid. The air, which moves through the ventilators, can also be heated if required due to a higher humidity of the leaves. The withering process takes 12 – 18 hours.
Subsequently, the withered green leaves are rolled in large rolling machines. These generally consist of two large, heavy metal plates, which are rotating against each other and are thereby breaking open the cells, bringing the cell fluid into contact with the oxygen in the air. This introduces the fermentation as well as the development of the essential oils, which then determine the scent and flavour of the teas. The rolled tea, which now already starts to ferment, is brought into the fermentation room. Some tea factories subsequently use a so-called “rotorvane” machine, a type of shredder, which further processes the leaves. Here, the leaves are moved across a slowly rotating screw conveyor through a cylinder into which oxygen is introduced in order to accelerate the fermentation.
The fermentation is an oxidation and tanning process of the cell fluids, which have been released during the rolling. For the fermentation, the leaves are spread out on tables in layers of 10 cm. In modern factories, spraying water from rotating ventilators humidifies the room in which the fermentation takes place. During the fermentation– which takes 2 – 3 hours – the leaves change their colour, which gradually becomes a copperred.This colour is found again in the wet tealeaves of the infusion. The “tea maker” needs to constantly monitor the degree of the oxidation, particularly with respect to the scent of the wet leaves. The quality of the finished tea is very much dependent on the correct fermentation.
The fermentation is finished when the desired grade of fermentation is reached, i.e. as soon as the tea has developed its typical smell and the copper-red colour it is dried. For this, so-called tiered dryers are used which are fuelled with wood or oil. The tea is moved through the dryer on a conveyor belt. The starting temperature amounts to 90°C and binds the cell fluid firmly to the leaves. Towards the end of the 20-minute long drying process, the temperature decreases to 40°C and the humidity content to approximately 6 %. Later, when the tea is infused, the cell fluid, which stuck to the dried leaves, is solved in the hot water and produces the aromatic and invigorating drink.
The black tea, which is released by the dryer, is the so-called raw tea, which is now sieved via a number of shaking, mechanical sieves with varying sieve sizes with which the common leaf grades are separated from each other.
Depending on the sieve sizes, sorting generally yields the following grades:
Leaf Tea – Broken Tea – Fannings – Dust
Generally valid: the smaller the leaf, the stronger the infusion.
Tea is a natural product, which is made durable by reducing its humidity content. It should be stored in a cool and dry place. The tea retains its original taste when kept in a tightly closed container, away from strongly smelling foodstuff such as spices.
Green Tea Production
Green tea differs from black tea simply by it not being fermented, i.e. not altered by oxidation. The production process is generally the same until after the withering. During the green tea production, the tea tannins and enzymes are destroyed via steam treatment or roasting after the withering, before the rolling starts – the tea is “steamed” or “pan-fried” and then rolled and dried. This ensures that the leaves are not coloured copper-red like the black tea leaves, but remain olive-green. The infusion varies depending on the variety, cultivation area and plucking period and can be anything from light yellow to dark green.
This term means: Crushing – Tearing – Curling
This method starts by withering the green leaves, then rolling them once before they are torn in the CTC machine in between thorned rollers. This ensures that the cells are broken up more thoroughly and quickly than is the case using the orthodox tea production. CTC tea is of a more intensive colour and is higher yielding. The stems and leaf ribs are extracted to a large extent and only the cut “flesh” of the green leaves is processed further. Afterwards, the tea is brought into the fermentation room. Depending on the desired leaf size, this process is repeated several times.
During the CTC-Production, mainly fanning is produced, no leaf teas and only very few broken teas. Therefore, CTC teas are very suitable for tea bags. Nowadays, tea in India is already produced to 50 % and tea in Kenya almost to 100 % using the CTC method. In Darjeeling, however, only orthodox tea is produced.
The most important grades are: BP = Broken Pekoe PF = Pekoe Fanning PD = Pekoe Dust
The Different Grades
Differentiation According to Leaf Sizes
Generally it is differentiated between leaf teas and broken teas. The small-leafed broken teas, which are cut during the repeated rolling, are naturally very high yielding. The names of the grades are often very imaginative and vary even from plantation to plantation. They are always an expression referring to the leaf size and optic and only to a lesser extent do they address the taste (e.g. flowery), never, though, can they inform about the general quality of the tea. The quality judgement of the teas offered is always made during the tasting.
Below the most important grades for:
a) Leaf Tea
1. Flowery Orange Pekoe = FOP
In Darjeeling also Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe = GFOP and Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe = TGFOP. This refers to a thin, wiry leaf with tips. Tips are the golden or silver-coloured, visible leaf tips (buds), which contain less tannin and, hence, do not darken during the fermentation. They indicate that young tealeaves were used; however this is not necessarily a determinant of exceptional quality.
2. Orange Pekoe = OP
A long, wiry leaf, larger than the FOP. The meaning of the term is unknown. Orange refers to the Dutch “Oranje”, which means “royal”.
3. Pekoe = P and Flowery Pekoe = FP
This leaf is shorter and larger than the Orange Pekoe, often also more open and not as finely rolled. Ceylon “low-grown” Pekoes have a ball-shaped leaf. Pekoes are stronger in the infusion than the Orange Pekoe, because the latter contains more leaf ribs and less “flesh”.
b) Broken Tea
1a. Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe = FBOP
This grade refers to the larger and very aromatic qualities of the small-leafed teas. A well-structured, well-rolled leaf with many tips, which yield an attractive appearance.
1b. Golden Broken Orange Pekoe = GBOP
A very fine and strong tea, especially with respect to Assam.
2a. Broken Orange Pekoe = BOP
A well-structured leaf, which has fewer tips than the FBOP, but is stronger and less flowery.
2b. Broken Orange Pekoe 1 = BOP 1
On some plantations in India, this is the explanation for the FBOP, in Ceylon it is, however, a “semi-leaf tea“, a grade, which is in between the OP and the BOP.
3. Broken Pekoe = BP
With respect to the CTC method, BP is a grade, which yields a very strong cup.
4. Fannings und Dust
The smallest parts of the leaf, without the stem or ribs, which are collected during the sieving. Fannings and Dust are high yielding, strong, colour the cup quickly and, hence, are preferred for use in tea bags.
Explanation of the abbreviations considering some examples:
SFTGFOP S (Super) F (Finest) T (Tippy) G (Golden) F (Flowery) O (Orange) P (Pekoe) large leaf
FP F (Flowery) P (Pekoe) small leaf
GFBOP G (Golden) F (Flowery) B (Broken) O (Orange) P (Pekoe) fine broken
BOPF B (Broken) O (Orange) P (Pekoe) F (Fannings) fannings
CTC C (Crushing) T (Tearing) C (Curling) round leaf
Tips for Making Tea
1. For your general information, our tea varieties are fitted with some recommendations for their preparation.
2. These recommendations are only suggestions based on our experience. Certainly, every tea lover should prepare his/her favourite tea according to his/her personal taste.
3. The basic rule for making tea: tea should be brewed with boiling water. Green tea, however, differs: the water should be brought to boil and then left to cool down to the appropriate temperature as stated in the recommendations.
4. A general rule for caffeine-containing tea varieties: an infusion of up to 3 minutes has a stimulating-, over 3 minutes a calming effect.
5. After the tea is brewed, it should be poured through a strainer into a pre-heated teapot.
6. Green tea can be infused several times; this reduces the bitterness of some varieties.
Substances with allergenic potential according to EU regulation 1169/2011, also called Food Information Regulation, are listed in the ingredients.
Definition of Flavours
We only use flavours that are in accordance with the currant EC and international directives and guidelines. Extensive and strict quality controls result in consistent and high quality products ensuring flavours that are generally suitable for human consumption.
The new flavour regulation (EC)1334/2008 was put into action on January 20, 2009 and has been officially in effect since January 2011 after a transition period of 2 years. Regulation (EC)1334/2008 replaces the flavour guideline 88/388EWG.
Definitions according to EU regulation No 1334/2008:
Are won from natural, vegetable or animal raw materials such as fruits, spices, herbs or roasted coffee. They may only be produced using physical, enzymatic or microbiological processes; for example squeezing, distilling, warming, filtering, grinding, blending, fermenting or crushing.
Are produced through chemical synthesis by using processes such as esterification or acetylation. The materials used need not be of natural origin, but the chemical composition of the majority of the final product must be identical to a naturally existing substance of vegetable or animal origin (formerly nature-identical flavours according to old EU guideline for flavours 88/338EWG).That is why these flavours are generally residue-free.
Due to the growing demand, the market offers a wide variety of organically produced teas, meaning that, among others, no pesticides or insecticides were used in their cultivation. Since January 1st 2009, the EU regulation (EC) No 834/2007 and the commision regulation (EC) No 889/2008 form a uniform basis of the cultivation, processing, storing, labelling and selling of organically produced foods. This regulation states that, for example, at least 95 % of all ingredients used in organic teas must be of organic origin and that only natural flavours may be used.
New organic label: Since July 1st 2012 the new EU organic label showing the form of a „EU leaf“ is mandatory on all packaging of organic products. This logo must be shown in one field of view with the product name, the manufacturer‘s data, the best before date and the filling quantity. The EU organic label must have a minimum size of 13,5 x 9 mm; the propotion must always be 1:1,5. Beneath the organic logo the code of the testing institute must be printed. This control code is formed of the country code, the organic suffix and a three-digit reference number of the testing institute. Our organic testing institute is Lacon with the code number: DE-ÖKO-003.
The location of production of the agricultural raw materials (indication of source) is given directly beneath the control code in form of three different varieties:
EU-Agriculture: all raw materials were produced within the EU
Non-EU-Agriculture: raw materials were produced outside of the EU
EU/Non-EU-Agriculture: raw materials were produced within as well as outside of the EU
Lots in Original Packaging / Special Blends
Our world of teas is so rich in specialities that it is impossible to display them all in this catalogue. Should you miss any varieties or should you be interested in more blends, seasonal varieties or speciality lots, please let us know. We continually stock a large selection of interesting, imported lots from several origins. Upon a minimum purchase of 5 kg, for example packed in flavour-protective bags of 1 kg each, we also blend and flavour tea according to your wishes.
As importer and wholesaler, we are obliged to bring only proper goods and qualities into circulation. For this reason, specialised, authorised food laboratories control almost all our teas. Corresponding certificates of analysis can be sent out if desired.
The shelf life of teas depends on the variety and on how it is stored. Generally, teas should be stored cool and dry in tightly closed and light-tight containers. If not otherwise declared on the packaging, the teas are delivered with a shelf life of 24 months in case of orthodox varieties, and 18 months in case of teas with several components,provided they are adequately stored.